As daunting as the task may seem, the act of getting rid of unnecessary things to tidy up a room or area benefits not only your home but also helps clear your mind and organize one’s life.
In this article, you’ll learn some basic strategies to declutter your home room by room, as well as ideas for what to do with the items you no longer use or need.
Decluttering your living space may mean tackling one small area at a time or jumping right in and starting on your entire home. It depends on how much you’re looking to change. Regardless, the steps you’ll use to declutter your home are the same.
- Step One: A Fresh Start: If you want to take your declutter effort seriously–you will want to take everything out of the room or area that needs decluttering—literally, everything. We’re talking about a fresh start here.
- Step Two: Box it up: As you remove items from the room or area you are decluttering, group them into seven box categories labeled: keep, relocate, recycle, stow, donate, sell, and dump.
- Step Three: Restore. Relocate. Release: Once all the items you placed are in their appropriate boxes, and you’re ready to tackle each container one by one.
But first, let’s break down the types of boxes you’ll be using in your decluttering efforts.
There are seven types of boxes you want to use to declutter your home:
The Keep Box: The “keep” box is for things we want quick and ready access to, like the book we’re currently reading.
The Relocate Box: The “relocate” box holds items you’ll eventually get around to putting back to their designated spot, like your hairbrush that is in the kitchen–but belongs in the bathroom!
The Recycle Box: The “recycle” box is for things you want to keep but need fixing or mending–think that shirt with the missing button. Instead of hanging it back in the closet, where you’ll forget about it, recycle it first!
The Stow Box: The “stow” box is for items you don’t need regularly but that you’d like access to now and then—for example, those out-of-season clothes.
The Donate Box: The “donate” box for items that you’ll give to friends, family members, or charity.
The Sell Box: The “sell” box is where you put items that you think can add a little coin to your piggy bank. Things that we’re willing to part with for a bit of money.
The Dump Box: Finally, the “dump” box is for items that you need to throw away.
Now, let’s dig into the decluttering box method, step by step, in more detail.
Step One: A Fresh Start
Decluttering is about creating a fresh start and getting rid of unnecessary things. So, start by emptying the room or area you want to declutter completely.
When we make a fresh start, we create the opportunity to have a clean slate–to think about what is important to us and identify opportunities for improvement–in this instance, minimizing our clutter both physically and psychologically.
Now is the opportunity to reflect on what’s important and remove things that aren’t. It gives us a chance to create some breathing room and re-think how we’ve been managing our home and belongings.
Decluttering is essential because it ultimately helps us live more simply with less stuff. Having less clutter around us allows us to enjoy our lives more fully.
Less is more–that’s the motto of every minimalist.
Step Two: Box It Up
The box method helps us define things we want to keep, stow, relocate, donate, recycle, sell, and dump. We must box our items in separate categories for decluttering because it helps us focus on what’s important and remove items.
The secret here is to make quick, instinctual decisions. Take an item and immediately box it, without too much, though. Think of it as a contest driven by a timer. The faster you go through this process, the better. The objective is not to let our brains talk us out of what our heart is telling us–regarding each item we own.
Tip! Remember, you can always return afterward and remove items from each box and put it in another. Nothing is permanent at this stage.
If you are like most people, you’ll find you put too many items in your “keep” box and have a hard time letting things go. The trick is to think about why you’re keeping the item in question in the first place. What purpose does it serve? Is it adding value to your life?
I have found that everyone has different levels of attachment to items. The best way to determine what stays and what goes is by asking yourself how important it is. If the article makes you happy, keep it!
We must be honest with ourselves as we go through this process, as it takes a bit of bravery to let our items go. At this stage, the critical task is to ask ourselves, do we use or need everything we’ve been holding on to? If not, let it go! However, there is nothing wrong with keeping things that are valuable to you. It’s essential to re-evaluate your belongings and eventually minimize them if they are practical for you and make sense in your life.
That said, the goal is to have fewer items in your keep box and a more significant number of items packed away in the other boxes. There are seven boxes, which means there are seven opportunities for decluttering. So use them all!
Step Three: Restore. Remove. Release.
Now that we have quickly placed our possessions in their appropriate boxes, it’s time for real action.
Here we will be focusing on the items in the “keep” box.
The keep box: Now is the time to re-evaluate the items in this box. Pull them out, one by one. Ask yourself, again, how essential each item is to you.
If it’s a book, ask whether or not you’ve read it already or would like to reread it in the future. If you don’t think you’ll reread the book any time soon, consider putting it in the stow, sell, or donate box.
If you decide to keep the book, you want it on display or easily accessible–in a closet or storage room. I typically put the majority of my keep items out of sight and then put only the things that bring me the most joy on display.
Here we will be focusing on the items in the “relocate, recycle, and stow” boxes.
The relocate box: If your home is anything like mine: dishes, clothes, and other easily transported household items tend to be strewn all over the place. When decluttering room by room, you should have placed anything that doesn’t belong in the room you are decluttering and put them in the relocate box. Now is the time to put it back where it belongs.
The recycle box: I can’t tell you how many shirts I have with buttons missing. I usually hang them back up, convincing myself I’ll fix them later. I never do. It will be more practical to collectively bring these items to a sewist for mending with these items grouped.
Or, you can do so yourself. An excellent way to make this task easier is to mend the items while watching TV. I once re-buttoned five shirts during a football game! If the fix is complicated or expensive, it may be time to give up on the item and let it go!
The stow box: These items can be put in separate, more permanent containers or bins and stored in places that aren’t as easily accessible: the basement, attic, or garage. There if you need them, but no cluttering up your home.
Tip! I like to label each bin by category and keep a notebook describing the items in each container. This way, if I eventually need something from a bit, I don’t have to rifle through each of them to find what I’m looking for; I can look in my notebook instead.
Now, for the hard part. For the items that did not make it into the “keep, relocate, recycle or stow” boxes… it’s time to say goodbye!
The Donate Box: If you feel good about the idea of giving the item to someone you know who needs it more than you do, or take it to a local charity. Some charitable institutions allow you to write off your donations on your taxes! So keep track of all contributions you made during this journey.
The Sell Box: Another great way to make extra cash for yourself is to put the items you no longer want up for sale on craigslist or eBay. Or, if you find yourself with many things, big and small, try a weekend garage sale.
The Dump Box: If a broken item is beyond repair or just plain unsalvageable, you will want to go ahead and dump it in the trash.
However, before you do, try to think of a few alternative uses for each remaining item before throwing it away. For instance: I couldn’t bring myself to throw away my bike bag because even though I don’t bike anymore, I loved the memories of my bike trips. Instead, I cut it up and used the pieces to do new projects. Reusing items helps me feel like I’m giving some creative use to these items that otherwise would go to waste.
That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Follow these three simple decluttering steps using the seven-box method, and you will be on your way to a more minimalist decluttered lifestyle.
Now, it’s up to you to get started.
Decluttering can be a daunting task for many people, but the benefits are well worth the time and energy that goes into it.
Don’t let the process overwhelm you. Tackle this project one room at a time. Once you’ve completed decluttering one area of your home, move on to the next, until eventually, you’ll have transformed your entire home into a peaceful sanctuary that reflects your unique style.